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Top 7 Rowers from Cheap to Premium | Rowing Machine Buying Guide

Updated on February 25, 2016
most beautiful rowing machine: water rower classic
most beautiful rowing machine: water rower classic | Source

What can you find here?

What is a rowing machine?

What are the benefits of using rowing machine?

What factors should I consider when buying a rower?

Where can I buy rowing machines in discount?

Which are the best rowing machines?

How to use a rower?

If you have any of these questions... Read on to find the answer!


What is a rowing machine?

A rowing machine is indoor equipment that simulates the motion of water rowing for aerobic exercises and general fitness. If you really want to get in shape, without going to the gym, there is no better option than a rowing machine. It offers cardio vascular and full body workout at the same time. It is equally efficient in burning calories and shedding fat. A general misconception is that rowing machines are for off-season rowers only. That is not true. Anybody can benefit from it. A proper workout on rowing machine can get your heart pumping and lungs working thus providing a superior aerobic workout. Another advantage of using rowing machine is that it is low-impact and non-weight bearing which means it won’t affect your joints, knees or ankles. People with weak joints or those who suffered serious injury before can use the machine without fear. Many people are unaware of the benefits of rowing machine and in turn they are left unused at the gym. This guide is for those who wish to get in shape with minimum equipment and investing minimum time each day.

Rowing machine benefits

Weight loss: The rowing machine burns calories faster than you think. According to Harvard Health Publications, a rowing machine can burn about 377 calories in 30 minutes for a person weighing 180 pounds.

Cardiovascular workout: Rowing machine is good for improved heart function, lungs working and circulatory system. Only thing you need to do is to keep the machine tension at low level and increase your speed. It raises your heart rate and increase oxygen intake. There are rowing machines with built in heart rate monitors. Just change the resistance until you reach the desired heart rate.

Low impact: As you know, the rowing machine is low impact so that it exerts minimum or no stress on joints and ankles. This is a perfect solution for people with weak joints as there is very low risk of injury. There is also less risk of tripping or falling from the equipment.

Time saver: As the rowing machine provides full body workout + cardiovascular benefits simultaneously, you can save a lot of time doing both.

rowing machine muscles used
rowing machine muscles used

What to look for when buying a rowing machine?

Size: It’s obvious that you should check your apartment before buying something big.

Residential or commercial use: There are specific models with more endurance for commercial use. So if you are building a gym, consider those models which can withstand continuous usage.

What is your purpose? If you are an off-season rower, you may consider rowing machines with water resistance as it gives you exact feeling and effect of water rowing. There are different types of resistance with its own pros and cons. Check out them before making the decision.

  • Air resistance: Most common type. Resistance is determined by the intensity of your workout. More intense you row, more will be the resistance.
  • Hydraulic piston resistance: It uses hydraulic pistons for altering resistance levels. It is less costly than other models.
  • Magnetic resistance: As the name implies, magnetic breaking system is used to vary the resistance levels.
  • Water resistance: Mainly for water rowers. Based on the same principle as air resistance, but uses water instead of air. Gives you the exact feeling of water rowing.

Resistance Type Comparison

Noise similar to outdoor rowing
Resistance depends on your workout intensity
Resistance depends on your workout intensity
Adjustable resistance
Adjustable resistance
Smooth and realistic
Most realistic
Less realistic
Less realistic
Moderately priced

Performance monitor and extra features: Some rowing machines come with heart rate monitor, calorie counter, speed and distance calculator etc. If you want to track your progress consider these features also.

Comfortability: Take your time to check every aspect of satisfaction before buying the product. If you are buying online make sure to check the options for return.

Warranty: As you know, rowing machines are big investment. So check the warranty options also. You may find it useful in the future.

Price: Last but not least, make sure your selected rowing machine deliver the performance and features for the price. You can spend $100 to $1500 for a rowing machine. It’s the quality and features that matter. What is your objective? Why do you want to buy this? Ask yourself and choose the best that fits your need.

Here, we list the best rowing machines for each purpose to save your time. Check out the top 5 rowing machines of 2015.

Stamina body trac glider 1050 vs Stamina air rower vs Velocity exercise magnetic rower vs Kettler Kadett Outrigger vs Concept2 Model D with PM5 vs Waterrower classic with s4 monitor vs ProRower H2O RX-950

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Concept2 Model D PM5Concept2 Model D PM5
Concept2 Model D PM5
Concept2 Model D PM5
Concept2 Model D PM5
Concept2 Model D PM5

Best heavy duty professional rowing machine: Concept2 Model D PM5

Without a doubt, we can say this one is the best selling rowing machine in the world. Concept2 Model D is used by professional rowers for years. It is the machine that U.S Olympic team uses for indoor training.

Model D PM5 is based on advanced air resistance system with adjustable spiral damper that can be used to simulate various king of rowing experience such as slim fast boat or bulky heavy boat. One of the unique features of Model D PM5 is the quiet nature despite the air resistance. The advanced design makes sure of it.

Constructed with a sturdy steel frame, the machine will last forever, literally and you get a smooth gliding movement. The main attraction of Concept2 Model D PM5 is the PM5 smart monitor itself. PM5 Performance Monitor display is the best on the market. Several features of this monitor will interest you which are listed below.

  • Users can set the angle for easy viewing.
  • Automatic on/off feature so that the monitor powers up when you start rowing
  • Displays distance, speed, calories burned, pace, watts for each workout
  • Backlight function
  • Wireless heart rate monitor with chest strap featuring ANT+ and Bluetooth smart technology for instant heart rate monitoring
  • Internal memory and USB drive to store and transfer data
  • Concept2 utility software to upload data online
  • Draws power from spinning flywheel to extent battery life
  • 4 games included for entertainment

The machine can be separated into two parts for easy storage. It is easy to operate. Model D PM5 can support up to 500 pounds and Concept2 offers 5 year warranty for frame and 2 year for parts.

5 Star Rated @ Amazon. Read User Reviews

Concept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black
Concept2 Model D with PM5 Performance Monitor Indoor Rower Rowing Machine Black

Price: $900.00

A review: "Best workout for your money. Lightening fast delivery. We purchased this on a Thursday and it was delivered the next day. Super easy set-up and easy to follow directions (in about 25 languages).

I've been working out with it for a week, and it's kicking my butt. It's the same machine found at most gyms.

We chose the PM5 monitor primarily because it's back lit. For me it was worth the extra money to see the monitor when I'm rowing."

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Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing MachineStamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Best Cheap and Compact Rowing machine for Home: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050

This is one of the most popular rowing machines on the market now. This hydraulic piston based rower is suitable for weight loss participants and general fitness workouts because you get complete workout in minimum time.

The machine is very easy to assemble, all parts and tools are included in the package and the manual is extremely clear with diagrams and description. Stamina Glider 1050 is surprisingly affordable for its features. It can support up to 250 pounds. The features are listed below

  • Foldable rowing machine. Can be stored anywhere in your apartment. The set up is very easy.
  • 12 level resistance for everyone in your family. You can workout intensely or casually.
  • Multi-function monitor displays calories burned, time, number of strokes, resistance level etc. It turn off automatically after a set period of time to save battery.
  • Absolutely quiet. You won’t feel any noise from the machine.
  • Extremely simple to use
  • Suitable for beginners also.
  • Very comfy thickly padded seat
  • 1 year frame warranty and 90 days for parts

38% OFF @ Amazon

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine

Price: $142.09

A review: "The first rower I bought (a different brand of rower) broke down after 15 min of use, but the Stamina Body Glider is well built and very easy to use. The instruction booklet is very clear. It only took a few minutes to put the machine together."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 MonitorWaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine in Black Walnut with S4 Monitor

Best professional water rowing machine: WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine

This handcrafted piece of equipment is indeed classy. Built with sturdy American black walnut and coated with Danish oil, the solid frame lasts for a lifetime. The handmade water flywheel provides true-to-life water rowing resistance.

We have never seen such a realistic simulation in any other brand except Concept2 Model D. This one is perfect for off-season water rowers and can accommodate up to 1000 pounds. The angled foot pedals adds to the comfort. The easily readable large monitor displays heart rate, average strokes, workout intensity, time and distance.

Another useful thing is that the machine can be folded for easy storage. This remarkably smooth and fluid rowing machine is constructed with walnut because of its strength and sound absorbing properties. You will only hear water roaring sound in the tank which adds to the realistic experience. Water rower offers 5 year warranty for the frame and 3 year for parts.

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Stamina Air RowerStamina Air Rower
Stamina Air Rower
Stamina Air Rower
Stamina Air Rower
Stamina Air Rower

Best air resistance rowing machine: Stamina Air Rower

It has adjustable resistance as your performance determines the resistance. This one is suitable for those who seek a full body workout machine for general fitness or cardiovascular exercise.

It has a single button multi-function monitor which displays distance, speed, calories and time. The strong frame is made of solid steel which is highly durable.

The design is very much comfortable and the footrest can fit most shoes. It can be folded and stored for saving space and is easy to do. There are caster wheels to make the machine portable. It can accommodate up to 250 pounds and is easy to assemble.

The main drawbacks of Stamina Air Rower are the noisy construction, air resistance makes it noisy than most other models, non-adjustable damper.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Velocity Exercise Magnetic RowerVelocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Best Magnetic Resistance Rower: Velocity Magnetic Rower

  • Extremely quiet due to magnetic resistance
  • 8 levels of adjustable resistance
  • Easy to change resistance by just a press of a button
  • Large monitor with backlight. Easy to read. Displays time, calories, distance, pace, strokes per minute, watts and pulse
  • 12 preset workout programs to start with
  • Built in heart rate receiver. You can make use of it if you have a heart rate monitor. Or this guide can help you to buy the best HRM
  • Sturdy aluminum frame. Durable and strong
  • Polyurethane leather seat. Large and comfortable
  • Can accommodate up to 275 pounds
  • Very easy to assemble
  • 1 year parts and labor warranty

25% OFF @ Amazon

Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower
Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Price: $600.39

A review: "This machine is whisper quiet (technically, a slight whir quieter than normal conversation but a little louder than a loud whisper) and the seat glide is perfectly smooth. I have been using this for my early morning workouts and (1) I can watch tv on my wireless headphones and (2) my family can sleep upstairs without hearing a thing. If it wasn't for my sleeping family, I could easily watch tv or listen to the radio at normal volume."

Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine
Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine

UPDATE #1: Kettler Kadett Outrigger Rower

Do you want realistic rowing experience without spending much? Go for Kettler Kadet Outrigger rower. The hydraulic piston based rower is good for indoor whole body workout or rowing training without breaking the bank. The 12 resistance levels will make you workout at your maximum intensity. It is sufficient for most users. The resistance levels are altered by adjusting a collar on the piston. While this is good for heavy intensity workouts, some may find it irritating to having to stop the exercise for changing the settings.

Kettler, the German company is well reputed for their fitness products; you don’t need to worry about the quality. The Kadett Outrigger Style is compact and can be stored easily. In the test, we found the motion to be very smooth and the seat very comfy. The operation is extremely quiet also.

However, one drawback we found was the footrest moves when rowing which is not good. The hydraulic system is less realistic compared to water and air movements but it is cheap compared to them. You cannot compare the Outrigger to Waterrower’s Classic. One thing for sure is that Kettler provides enough for the money we pay.

The display is also efficient and large, shows distance, number of strokes, time, speed, calories and heart rate. The built quality is excellent as we notice. So if you want a near realistic rowing experience for lesser price, buy this.

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ProRower H2O RX-950ProRower H2O RX-950ProRower H2O RX-950
ProRower H2O RX-950
ProRower H2O RX-950
ProRower H2O RX-950
ProRower H2O RX-950
ProRower H2O RX-950
ProRower H2O RX-950

UPDATE #2: H2O Fitness RX-950 ProRower

The RX 950 ProRower from H2O fitness is a commercial grade high quality rower equally suitable for your home or the gym or health club. The stainless steel and anti-corrosive aluminum construction guarantee durability and longetivity.

The Hydro-Power resistance system gives you the most realistic experience as in the boat. You can see it even sounds like the water rowing. The resistance adjustment is automatic. This means as you row faster, the resistance increases as well. One of the advantages of this system is that you won’t have to stop the exercise to change the settings.

The grippy footrest can be adjusted using a pivot and it does not slip. It also comes with an optional lumbar support seat attached to the back of regular seat. The extra large, easily readable monitor displays time, distance, strokes, calories, heart rate etc. The machine is foldable and can be stored away.

There are lots of features for the money which makes the RX 950 a perfect competitor for high end Waterrower classics. However, the first thing you are going to love is the polycarbonate water tank with paddle system which creates actual water rowing experience.

It makes less noise than the air rowers, and the sound produced adds to the originality. Another very useful feature is the solid one piece footpad which is very versatile. You can adjust for the most comfortable position easily.

H2O Fitness is one of the leading manufacturers of fitness products. However this product has registered some complaints so far. They are

  • Water leak from the tank after a few years
  • The chord that connects handles to the spinning mechanism gets shredded after some time

Overall, the H2O Fitness RX 950 is a solid machine for almost perfect rowing experience for professional rowers. No matter the issues, if you want a quiet and realistic rowing machine, the RX-950 is one of the best and most affordable choices on the market for low impact, high cardio exercise.

How to use a rowing machine properly?


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    • healthcarepro profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Somewhere on Earth

      Thank you DDE :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Informative and very helpful.


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